Points of Unity

We believe that a unified political organization deeply rooted in mass working class struggle against capitalism is the only way for us to build a socialist future. Capitalism destroys us. It exploits us in the workplace. It takes our homes and expropriates our wealth. It relies on the devastation of our environment and continuous imperialism and militarism. It creates alienated and carceral societies that it seems we can never escape from. 

Yet capitalism creates the seeds of its own destruction. It constantly creates sites of struggle in which we can form and root a new emancipatory politics. Class struggle surrounds us everywhere and manifests in particular conditions. Not only does class struggle emerge in fights against the boss, but also in fights against the imperial police state, against landlords, against the far-right. We also see class struggle in the fights for queer liberation and against racism. It is in all of these struggles in which we not only envision a new and better world, but actually build that world through real political organization and solidarity. 

Our constellation is the united organization in each of these struggles. To be deeply rooted in the multi-racial, multi-gendered, multi-generational working class, we must connect the ongoing struggles against capitalism in all of their manifestations. It is in this organization  that we heal ourselves from the methods of capitalist destruction that rule our lives. By replacing the individualism of isolated struggles against particular manifestations of capitalism with collective solidarity, we are able to envision the world beyond capitalism.  Our commitment to each other grounds the ability to win transformative change and empower the working class to take charge of our own lives.

We believe that the Democratic Socialists of America is the only organization in America which has the possibility to become this organization rooted in all struggles and take power. We are in a unique position for socialist politics to rise like it hasn’t before in American history through the new tradition and mass organization of a democratic socialist movement.

What follows are our agreed upon Points of Unity. Unlike many other caucuses of DSA, these points may seem more insular and focused on DSA’s organization and strategy rather than broader society. That is intentional. We believe that DSA is the only organization with the potential capacity to destroy the capitalist system and build a socialist world out of its ashes. To make this capacity a reality, we must focus on our organization’s internal development and build a unified political organization rooted in all working class struggles. 

We stand for the following principles to build such an organization:

Building a National Bureaucracy

Our socialist movement is at its strongest when it's coordinated, and when all chapters throughout the country are given the support they need. Without focus on the internal structure and capacity of our organization, our external struggles for working class power will not be able to be sustained over time. We need a robust national infrastructure that connects our national leadership to our chapters, supports healthy and safe organizing, and that operates democratically with a focus on cadre and political development amongst our membership.

Without a layer connecting our national organization to chapters, national leadership is overworked and unable to integrate chapters into a coordinated broader vision or assist with their own local organizing. Both DSA and YDSA require more organization at the national level, which means expanding the bureaucracy that works under direct and democratic control of national leadership. This is necessary to ensure that there is capacity for elected leaders to carry out democratic mandates and advance DSA into a mass socialist organization.

An essential part of this national bureaucratic development is supporting national committees and working groups focused on more specific issues and needs, including often under-developed focuses on organizing safety and the grievance process. Interpersonal and political conflict, harassment, and other grievance-worthy incidents are inevitable within a mass organization. If we are not prepared for these challenges before they arise, it will be detrimental to the socialist cause. To address this, it’s necessary to develop and reform our grievance process. We must work to expand national bodies which assist chapters with their grievance process and create national grievance systems which work for the needs of our organization and its members. This means not relying on private contractors to run our grievance system, but developing a process which is clearly and fairly structured and run by DSA members and grievance officers, coordinated at the national level.

At both the national and local level, building cadre leadership and politically developing our membership must be prioritized. This isn’t something that can be done within issue-based working groups and committees alone - it requires expanding our national bureaucracy.  Bodies such as the previously established National Organizing Committee within YDSA and the Growth & Development Committee within DSA are starting points for this vision. With expanded national bureaucracy, we can more easily connect to chapters across the country, train and develop their leaders, and politically develop our membership as a whole.

None of this entails handing over the control of the organization to unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats. Like already existing structures in DSA, new and expanded national bureaucracies will need to be accountable to and appointed by nationally elected leadership. This means direct oversight and control by NCC and NPC, as well as transparent practices at all levels of national leadership to allow members to understand and participate in the organization. With an expanded bureaucracy dedicated to connecting members at all levels, we can build a stronger DSA and get closer to becoming a mass socialist organization.

Anti-Imperialism & Internationalism

As US residents, it is our responsibility to reign in the most destructive military force on the planet. We advocate a revolutionary defeatist position, where our role as socialists in the imperial core is to oppose all US international interventions and weaken the US military in any way possible. We hold this responsibility not only to our comrades abroad who suffer under American imperialism, but also to our comrades at home (particularly those who are Black and/or Indigenous), who suffer under increased police brutality enabled by military-grade equipment. 

YDSA has a unique role to play in this fight. The campuses we study and work in are sites of military research and directly complicit in imperialist collaboration (such as the deadly exchange, where campus police attend “counterterrorism” trainings in Israel). We are also constantly inundated with propaganda and recruitment efforts from the US military and defense contractors. Because of this, YDSA can lead the fight against the school-to-military pipeline by picketing recruitment events, pressuring school administrators to end the deadly exchange, and educating our peers about the horrors that the Pentagon and weapons manufacturers carry out all over the world.

It is imperative for YDSA to reach out to other youth socialist formations abroad, especially those in multi-tendency and mass party formations similar to our vision for DSA and those most affected by US imperialism. This includes the socialists and communists of the Caribbean, the mass parties of Latin America, and the resistance to settler-colonialism in Palestine. We have so much to learn, both in strategy and perspective, from our fellow young socialists who have been resisting capitalism, neo-colonialism, and imperialism in their home countries, especially those in organizations which have existed longer than YDSA has.

We also recognize that we must approach socialist formations outside the imperial core from a perspective of solidarity first. This is especially true for countries where this struggle takes the form of contesting state power. Our role as socialists in the US is not to instruct other socialists abroad on the “correct” path to socialism, but rather to do all we can to remove the threat of US imperialism.

Winning socialism only in our own country is meaningless. Workers across borders have more in common with each other than with their bosses in their respective home countries. Our enemies—the multinational corporations, the fossil fuel industry, and imperialist military forces—all work internationally. Opposing them therefore requires a united international working class. We have a world to win, but we need workers all over the world to win it.

Role of caucuses

As DSA’s big tent continues to grow, we have seen the formation of more and more caucuses around the natural ideological tent poles which underpin the direction of the organization. Caucuses are essential to forming the guideposts for discussion, deliberation, and debate within the organization. However, caucuses have also grown into sources of factionalism, division, and uneven membership development. When a caucus puts their political line above the healthy growth and development of membership, we risk sidelining effective work in favor of factional infighting. Caucuses also reveal the ways in which DSA lacks accessible methods for members to find information about the organization as well as get plugged into work.

To fix these problems, we must make it clear that DSA is not a coalition of caucuses participating in similar work, but instead an organization building a unified platform of democratic socialist priorities. To achieve this more unified form, DSA should move towards a model of formal registration and regulation of caucuses and their behavior.

This means respect for the democratic decision making of our organization. Caucuses are free to advocate their own political line and criticize decisions of our leadership. However, when it comes to organizational work being carried out both locally and nationally, caucuses should defer to what was democratically decided upon by the organization at convention.

    Caucuses also should not create independent and redundant structures from DSA as a whole, as this hampers the growth of the organization, development of members, and has the potential to undermine the democratically decided direction of the organization. For example, it is inappropriate for caucuses to go on independent international delegations and present themselves to international parties, or possess large budgets and staff. Besides diverting resources away from a movement which is already stretched paper thin, it also makes caucus membership a prerequisite for developing new members into true cadres.

    Fostering productive and healthy internal debate on issues DSA is facing is incredibly important. However, this debate should be primarily happening in DSA-run spaces and not caucus-specific ones. DSA-run spaces should instead serve as a broad platform that allows all members, new and old, to engage with the political issues of our organization and the socialist movement.

Caucuses play a vital role when it comes to fostering internal democracy and political debate. They continue to do so when the goal of building DSA into a democratic mass socialist organization remains the priority. 

Approaching the mass party horizon

       Over the last few years, DSA has been propelled into becoming the largest socialist organization in the United States largely due to momentous electoral campaigns that brought socialists into public office. We believe that our electoral work is most effective in building a strong socialist movement when we run candidates to win, focus on building long-term working class organization, and, once in office, make every attempt possible to pass legislation that benefits our class. 

Our electoral approach should not focus on our relationship to the Democratic Party, but rather on the legislation we can pass and the enemy we are trying to defeat. We must utilize the electoral arena as a long-term project of class formation in which we are building a conscious working class polity. Creating our class requires running campaigns that build solidarity, prioritizing community tabling, and limiting our endorsements to campaigns we can tangibly support (such as through canvassing a substantial proportion of the voter base).  

In office, our work does not end. Our electeds must work to organize the working class. Whether through pressure campaigns for legislation coordinated with elected officials or directly supporting tenant and worker organizing through district offices, we must build meaningfully coordinated work with both chapters and elected officials.

We understand the horizon of DSA electoral work to be a mass party, with DSA elected officials who without question support the DSA platform, vote as a bloc with other DSA electeds, and are consistently meeting with both local and national DSA leadership. Common calls for “electoral accountability” tend to misunderstand the path to this mass party. Elected officials are responsible to the base which elects them, including both their constituencies and their donors and volunteers who make their campaigns function. Until DSA becomes a mass organization able to be the primary base which elects our endorsed members, DSA electeds are going to have to reckon with broader contradictions within their base, which means DSA will not always be the priority.

Due to the importance electoral work has in not only building momentum, but also influencing our public image as a political organization with nationwide reach and broad appeal, YDSA should not conduct independent electoral work that contradicts the strategy from our national organization. YDSA chapters play a key role in supporting electoral campaigns through organizing youth and students to vote and volunteer for socialist candidates. The structure of electoral campaigns and their constant focus on outreach and organizing offer the opportunity to build well-functioning YDSA chapters with strong connections to the communities in their locations. This would be undermined by YDSA taking on an electoral strategy contradictory to that of our DSA comrades. Electoral work has historically built the DSA into the second largest socialist organization in US socialist history. For it to continue to play such a role, we have to embrace a strategy that focuses on long-term political organization and the horizon of a mass socialist organization. 

Towards a Diverse ydsa

YDSA members who want to diversify the organization face obstacles at both the local level and those at the national level. At the local level, many problems emerge for YDSA chapters that start out as groups of friends, and thus tend to attract people who are similar to those already involved in the chapter. In these chapters, we often see the development of exclusionary and harmful practices, whether chapter leaders are aware or not. Discussion also can become male-dominated and harmful.  These are further exacerbated without intentional integration and onboarding.  

These issues can be addressed in a variety of manners. YDSA chapters need to be integrated in their local DSA chapters and the local community. The “campus bubble” that many YDSA chapters operate in limits our ability to tackle issues relevant to marginalized groups and build a diverse membership. Further, we should consistently host training sessions for chapters that focus on building diverse membership. These could be a list work training adapted specifically for retaining members from marginalized groups, a strategic campaigns training adapted to teach chapter leaders how to identify issues that disproportionately affect marginalized people on campus and in the surrounding community, or similar.

Unaddressed diversity issues at the chapter level are exacerbated at the national level, since national involvement in YDSA generally requires even more time and energy than chapter involvement. But there are also unique barriers to increasing participation from members from marginalized backgrounds at the national level, which are:

Wherever possible, the NCC and other national bodies should prioritize initiatives that bring more people from marginalized backgrounds into the organization, rather than initiatives that almost wholly benefit those who are already “in.” YDSA must recruit widely and intentionally retain people of color in national bodies. This requires addressing the grievance system and developing spaces and campaigns where marginalized groups’ voices are prioritized, as mentioned above. It also requires building up a national bureaucracy that prioritizes issues that disproportionately affect marginalized groups and that new chapters can easily plug members into. 

Building the labor struggle on campus

          As a campus organization, our focus for labor organizing should revolve around the campus unions, or lack thereof, and the unions in our local communities. Supporting a union on your campus can be an incredible tool for building the capacity of a chapter. The connections gained by showing solidarity can strengthen future campaigns the chapter runs. Our national infrastructure should be configured to ensure that chapters are equipped and ready to carry out these campaigns and learn from them. It should also facilitate relationships between YDSA and DSA chapters nearby each other, since DSA chapters have been instrumental to the success of strike solidarity work in our organization (such as in the month-long Starbucks strike in Boston and the student worker’s strike at various UC campuses). 

Members should also be encouraged to take on current unionized undergraduate jobs wherever possible. Having a group of unionized workers within the chapter creates an inside line to the needs of the union and allows for our chapters to provide a more meaningful solidarity to the union. It is also easier for our members to express the need for union representation to our peers on campus when we ourselves have experienced the gains from a union job. This offers our organizers an early insight into the internal politics of a union. With this experience, our organizers will be better equipped to build a strong labor movement post-graduation and work to articulate a socialist vision within them.  

Where there is no undergraduate representation within any campus unions, our members should lead the charge to form them. This can be through joining locals that exist, or through creating wall to wall undergraduate worker associations. We have seen successes come from this orientation from the students at Grinnell, Dartmouth, and Kenyon. We should be continuing the work of the labor cohort in supporting chapters which are implementing this program.  

After joining their unions, leading strike solidarity work, or forming new unions, our members will have invaluable skills. We need to be able to keep those skills within the organization, so we must put in work to retain our members and ensure that they continue on to DSA.  This requires us to put concrete effort into reforming our grievance process to ensure that YDSA is a safe and welcoming space for organizing. It also means that we need to have check-ins throughout a member’s time within YDSA and a post-graduation pipeline set up to make the transition to DSA organizing easier. YDSA can meet the current labor movement by focusing on building solidarity and organizing workers at and around our campuses.

An integrated and democratic ydsa

The movement for socialism will be stronger with greater integration, coordination and unity. Division and independence within our organization undermine the whole. This is especially true of the situation of YDSA - as of right now, our organization’s youth and student wing is not consistently functioning as an integrated part of the whole, and that limits the potential of organizers on and off campuses.

There are many obstacles YDSA chapters face which make connections to DSA an important political necessity. From high schools and community colleges to four year schools, YDSA chapters are based in environments that guarantee a great deal of turnover. This is an obstacle to stability and creates difficulties as organizing experience can be lost as each generation of students passes through. Stronger ties to local DSA chapters, as well as the additional resources and support can be shared to assist YDSA chapter organizing. This includes material and financial support, as well as information and experience gained from consistent organizing in the community. DSA chapters also benefit from YDSA integration building stronger campaigns and expanding active membership. A formal relationship with DSA chapters can provide a level of stability that may not be possible for YDSA chapters to maintain themselves.

One way to facilitate this connection between YDSA and DSA chapters are liaisons—individuals that can connect YDSA and DSA chapters together as an established role. These can be DSA chapter members who are in charge of regularly communicating the needs of the YDSA chapter back to the DSA chapter, or YDSA chapter members who serve in a leadership role in the DSA chapter, depending on local conditions. Positions like liaisons set up channels for communication and representation of YDSA chapters. Moving towards standardizing formal inclusion of YDSA chapters within the structure of a DSA chapter further fosters effective organizing. One example of this is regional subdivisions such as branches: YDSA chapters can effectively function as campus-based branches within DSA chapters.. Branch status allows for a formal mechanism with precedent in non-YDSA contexts which can establish a relationship of support and communication between often isolated campuses and communities.

Of course, each chapter is operating under different conditions which may shape the integration process. Some chapters may be unable to pursue integrative measures due to a lack of a DSA chapter in their area or conditions within an existing chapter. As we continue to see more YDSA chapters connect with their DSA chapters and integrate structurally, we must learn from what works and what doesn’t and develop strategies for integration that match different conditions. It is critically important that YDSA and its members understand our place not as an independent or subversive force, but as one branch of our greater cause.

This principle should not only be applied at the local level, but within the national structures of our organization. There are many organization-wide subsections between YDSA and DSA, especially national working groups and committees. The overlap allows for similar functions between the two, and integration is a natural next step to increase organizational efficiency. This facilitates the ability to more efficiently coordinate goals and resources, as well as connect YDSA organizers to experienced organizers. Further advances in national integration can come in similar forms to chapter level developments, with liaisons or other person-to-person communications being a starting point, and formal structural integration of YDSA within DSA as a goal. Strides in this direction have already started within some national level committees, such as the Youth Leadership Committee within the International Committee.

An integrated YDSA will allow for organizers in campuses and communities to join together in struggle. With YDSA as an integrated part of DSA, YDSA members will be able to participate more fully in the organization as a whole, only benefitting our organizational strength. Each YDSA and DSA chapter is fundamentally a political organization positioned at a site of struggle. If we imagine each of these sites as a star in the night sky, we can see that the ties that bind together these stars are not strong enough to overcome the obstacles we face. Our mission as organizers must be to unite these struggles, and thus our vision as a caucus is to unite these stars into one constellation—as we struggle for the better world we all know is possible.